There have been several commonalities among the many statements and speeches made in regard to the atrocious displays of racism that have amounted over the years, finally coming to a long-overdue head with the killing of George Floyd.
Everything that’s being said, for the most part, is important for us to hear and learn from. Take action. Make a change. Don’t sit back, don’t be a bystander. Even silence during this time can be taken as a lesson that we should be listening instead of talking. The NFL has been especially vocal, for better or for worse, and has featured the voices of many prominent stars. But of all the NFL's speeches, statements, and shared themes and lessons, it may be Colts GM Chris Ballard’s takeaway that is most meaningful of all for the league, and for the white community as a whole.
His impassioned speech began by offering many of the important realizations and takeaways that have come from influential figures across the nation.
“I can’t sit here and remain silent because that’s exactly what we’ve done every time our black community screams and yells for help,” Ballard said. “We have to end social injustice and social inequalities. We have to end police violence against our black communities.”
But then Ballard decided to point out the quite-literally white elephant and passionately opine that the white community, himself included, needs to take full responsibility for the situation.
“Black lives matter,” Ballard said. “I don’t understand why that’s so freaking hard for the white community to say. I’ve been ignorant. I’ve been ignorant to the real problem and I’m ashamed of that.”
Ballard went on to mention how the past week or so has been an extremely important time in getting him to realize the depth and severity of the issue, and that he views himself as being ignorant to the real problem at hand.
“This is not a black problem,” Ballard said. “This is a white problem. This is an issue that we have to talk about and we can’t sugarcoat it. We can’t sugarcoat our way out of this. We can’t go back into our bubble because that’s what we’ve always done.
NFL head coach Bruce Arians spoke similarly on the matter, stressing that while the protests are great and necessary, it’s even more important that we continue to act after these temporary bouts of action are over.
“It’s one thing to march and protest, but it’s another thing to take action,” Arians said (via the Tampa Bay Business Journal. “When the protesting’s over, I would encourage everyone to take action. Do something positive to help the situation, don’t just go back to being silent because then it’s going to happen again.”
Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn, one of the few African American coaches in the league, had similar thoughts to Arians. Lynn stressed that we need to make sure these protests and demonstrations actually have a purpose, and that we’re not just doing this “because it’s the right thing to do.” Lynn also offered a comparison of today to 1992, when the Rodney King Riots caused Los Angeles to burn. Arians, similarly, pondered just how much our nation has actually changed since 1968, a fateful and especially dark year in American history.
The last thing anyone wants to see is all of these meaningful demonstrations, whether through social media or impassioned protests and marches, fall by the wayside and fail to change the course of history. Ballard sees listening as a necessary step in the process toward progress.
“We’ve always gone right back into our bubble and we’ve never really listened,” Ballard said. “We haven’t listened. I haven’t listened. We haven’t listened as a country. White America refuses to listen. We want to keep things the same and it can’t or we will continue down the same paths we’re continuing down and that has to change, and nothing will change until we do that.
“I’m ashamed of that.”